I have always found it curious how many people share their hurts and struggles with me. Friends and sometimes even strangers tell me things like, “My marriage is falling apart,” “I’ve been molested by my brother,” “my mother is an alcoholic,” “I became a lesbian in prison.” People have opened up their hearts to me, but I used to wonder: “Why are you telling me this?”
An answer finally came from a coworker who later became one of my closest friends.
“You’re so easy to talk to,” she said, “I feel like I can tell you anything, and you won’t judge me.”
She explained to me that I attract people because I project an air of confidence. Not self-confidence, but the kind of confidence that holds onto promises and doesn’t air a secret.
Even when I do think I have something to say, people don’t always want my help. I realized that sometimes people don’t need advice—they just need someone to talk to. When they find someone who won’t betray their confidence to everyone they know, they come to believe that they can trust other people to treat them with compassion.
Her words made me realize something huge: I am a good listener. Instead of being just a sounding board, I came to see my capacity for listening as a way for me to give to bleeding hearts. Little did I know how this quality would strengthen my own relationships.
As a wife and mother, I can see every day how important the art of listening is to maintaining healthy relationships with the people I love. My children thrive on being heard. They feel loved when I put down my work, look them in the eye, and listen with undivided attention to whatever they have to say.
I’ve learned that sometimes just being available to listen is exactly what my marriage needs. My husband doesn’t share much from his heart. He is very introverted. But he has the assurance that he can. He knows that my ear is his whenever he wants it, and that builds a confidence in our marriage that leads to real intimacy.
It’s so easy to allow the bustle of life to keep us from hearing those around us. But stopping to listen is a gift that every friend, spouse, and child wants to receive. Don’t believe me? Try it out. Listen. You may not always hear what you like, but listening will build a closer and long-lasting relationship between you and the people you love.